Over the next four years, a total of €800m (US$908m) will be invested in Saarbrücken, Germany, the lead location of ZF’s transmission technology. With this investment, the location will be made fit for the transition from conventional to electric car drives. “The share of hybrid drives in production will increase tenfold over the next few years – from 5% to 50%,” said Wolf-Henning Scheider, CEO of ZF Friedrichshafen. ZF is investing more than €3bn (US$3.4bn) worldwide in new products and its production network for transmission technology.
For the Saarbrücken plant, the ongoing electrification of the powertrain is both an opportunity and a challenge. “We see the increasing market penetration of advanced hybrid drives as an opportunity, which in our view is much more than just a bridge technology,” said Scheider. “With longer ranges between 80 and 100km [50 and 62 miles], they can complete the majority of all journeys electrically and thus help e-mobility to achieve a breakthrough more quickly.”
ZF’s order books show that the hybrid technology is in great demand. ZF is responding to this boom in demand with an investment program worth more than €3bn for the further development and sustainability of these products. In Saarbrücken, the €800m investment will be focused on production plants and systems, infrastructure, and the company’s supplier network.
If the development towards pure electromobility progresses as currently forecast in several studies, sales (and thus the workforce at the Saarbrücken plant) will, however, decline in the long term. In view of this development, ZF has launched a number of activities in Saarbrücken that are intended to increase the plant’s international competitiveness. These include, for example, a whole series of IoT projects. At the same time, these initiatives use artificial intelligence (AI) to provide quick and valuable decision-making aids for employees and thus increase efficiency.
“The fact that these effects will only occur in a few years’ time gives us the opportunity to prepare for them today,” said Stephan von Schuckmann, head of ZF’s Car Powertrain Technology Division. “We want to prepare our employees for the mobility of the future with a wide range of training and qualification opportunities and more agile work structures.”